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Writer Peter Watts Sentenced; No Jail Time 299

shadowbearer writes "SF writer Peter Watts, a Canadian citizen, whose story we have read about before in these pages, was sentenced three days ago in a Port Huron, MI court. There's not a lot of detail in the story, and although he is still being treated like a terrorist (cannot enter or pass through the US, DNA samples) he was not ordered to do any time in jail, was freed, and has returned home to his family. The judge in the case was, I believe, as sympathetic as the legal system would allow him to be."
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Writer Peter Watts Sentenced; No Jail Time

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  • Allahu ackbar! (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Luke727 ( 547923 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:31PM (#32052920) Homepage Journal

    *pushes detonator*

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:32PM (#32052926)
    It shows the Judge thought it was bullshit that was a waste of taxpayers money via the court system as well.
    Time to get some adult supervision at those border posts.
  • by jgreco ( 1542031 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:36PM (#32052952)

    Adult supervision? Heck, my kids know to behave better than those guards.

  • by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:51PM (#32053068)
    And the grandparent is implying that it wouldn't even take an adult to see how horribly the guards were acting; even other children would get it.
  • Re:Common Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:52PM (#32053074)

    Erm...apparently, according to what I've read about this, even IF you give them what they ask for, they can fuck you over.

    So...what what was the point were you trying to make again?

  • by kramerd ( 1227006 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:54PM (#32053086)

    To be fair, he got out of his car while it was being searched in a routine border search. Not randomly on the street, but to make sure that you have declared everything you may be bringing across borders (you should recognize that this would be reasonable). Its not like he couldn't have read up on how border crossings work prior to heading across the border to learn that his vehicle may be searched and that at no time should he leave his vehicle unless explicitly asked to do so by border patrol. Never mind that its posted 100 times in plain sight that you are to remain in your vehicle at all times.

    The police response is to assume that (since they have not searched him) it is possible that he may have a weapon, especially when he gets out of his car. Pepper spray is a light sentence, and I have no reason to believe that he wasn't fighting back just because he writes SF. Neither did a jury which found him guilty of felony non-compliance (which I have to assume is the reason he was overly restrained). This law includes offenses ranging from assault and battery to simply standing too close to an officer, and his punishment is correctly somewhere in the middle (less than 2 years in prison, more than nothing).

    To be accurate, however, we would have to read the judge's notes on the case to understand the judge's thought process. There is no basis for assuming that the judge thought the case was a waste of taxpayer money (if a judge thinks this, they tend to throw the case out, not wait for a jury to come back with a verdict).

  • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:17PM (#32053210) Homepage

    It shows the Judge thought it was bullshit that was a waste of taxpayers money via the court system as well.
    Time to get some adult supervision at those border posts.

    There will never be adult supervision at these border posts, TSA, or anyplace similar.

    The reason is simple enough -- the powers that be know that most of these positions are complete wastes of time. They're there to placate the rubes. That's all. If you want in the US, you get in. It's not hard. It will never be hard.

    In addition, very powerful, very important people put very stupid children in positions of power at these places, in order to fill up the resumes of these very stupid children before they can become the new generation of very powerful, very important people (the stupid is assumed redundant by this point).

    Any form of adult supervision would break both clauses -- an adult would take one look at the extreme waste of money and energy and run screaming (or break down crying), and/or fire or penalize the very stupid children (or, more likely, attempt to and then be smacked down by the aformentioned broken down crying adults who have already given up).

  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:19PM (#32053222)

    I grew up military. What I heard over and over again was that "The honor of the unit lies with each man."

    You see, the fine police officers you know? They have a DUTY to police themselves. That's why "the few bad apples" argument doesn't hold up. Those fine police officers you feel sorry for? They have a duty to ARREST and TESTIFY AGAINST those bad apples.

    That's why you can't say, "It's just a few bad cops." The supposedly "good" cops have an obligation to put a stop to it, and they're shirking their duties by refusing to do so.

    This makes them culpable as accomplices. That's why there are no "fine police officers" any more, because if there were, they'd clean their house.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:24PM (#32053264)

    I dunno. Once it's been determined that it's just curiousity and not ill intent, I think the beating is more than enough punishment. No need to ladle charges on top of that, unless you're trying to legitimize the through the charges. It's kind of a pity that he's not an american citizen. I'd like to see an appeal and suit. He could certainly do those things as a foreign national, but I suspect that he'll probably just be grateful to be able to go home, and that'll be the end of it.

  • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:25PM (#32053266) Homepage Journal

    Robert Heinlein used to claim that an armed society is a polite society but he was wrong. An armed society has these dangerous pockets of paranoia because police, border guards, etc expect to be shot at and consequently behave as if everybody they deal with is going to do that.

    I can understand a Canadian being rather confused by this situation.

  • Re:Common Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:25PM (#32053270) Homepage

    The lesson? Be polite, give 'em what they ask for, and say "yes, sir". Otherwise, expect a bad outcome.

    Paper's please... pic 1 [visibility911.com] pic 2 [wordpress.com]

  • Re:Common Sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:30PM (#32053296)
    The man was CONVICTED.

    Of being beaten up by police. It's not enough that they beat people with impunity, they want to throw them in jail for the offense of being punching bags.

  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:36PM (#32053334)

    A jury found him guilty of felony non-compliance, so he must have done more than just stepped out of his car.

    Actually, from the reports, that's EXACTLY what he did, and the judge basically cut him loose for it.

    he did so at border patrol, which by definition carries a higher risk for officers,

    I am so sick of hearing this. Cowardice is no excuse for brutality. I grew up military. Come to one of my family dinners and let the Vietnam veterans in my family explain what a dangerous job is.

    Looking at the Department of Labor statistics, being a cop is a VERY safe job. You know who gets killed on the job more often than police officers? Construction workers. Cab drivers. Fast food workers. Hotel clerks.

    Hop over to the forums on "Officer.com" and listen to the boys on blue in their own words for a while. They'll tell you quite openly they feel absolutely no obligation to put themselves in harm's way for the "sheeple," and they proudly proclaim "I AM GOING HOME TONIGHT" no matter how many receptionists and secretaries have to die to make that happen.

    I spent some time with the State Fire Association. Seems like everyone last one of those guys is missing an eye, ear or finger, and has a quietly proud story of how they traded that part of their body for some stranger's kid. I stand in awe of their dedication, sacrifice and courage.

    The institutional cowardice and crutality of law enforcement stands in stark contrast.

  • by hldn ( 1085833 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:40PM (#32053354) Homepage

    because they are within their rights to beat you well before that, as they should be, because what if you have a gun?

    what an idiotic statement. sorry, there's no other way to describe it.

  • by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:52PM (#32053440) Homepage

    The situation here that occured, however, is that officers attacked a man who got out of his car in an area where he should have known not to get out his car. Quite frankly, based on that information, the officers in this situation did nothing wrong. They did not know whether or not a real physical threat existed at the time, and acted as one should; that is, as if a real threat in fact did exist.

    There was a time when police used violence as a last resort. It is now the first resort. It is sad that people like you and others willingly accept that.

  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:53PM (#32053452)

    but what trained officers are supposed to do is expect the subject to do the worst possible thing...

    No. Not even soldiers are trained to do that. Civilian law enforcement is trained to use good judgement. It is more important to know when NOT to shoot than it is to know when TO shoot. Keep running Mad Max fantasies through your head like anyone who COULD pull a gun WILL pull a gun, and you end up shooting a kid for no good reason like one ex-officer I personally know.

    If you haven't been in a situation where a person wants to argue with cops and then for some unknown reason pulls out a gun,

    Here's another nonsense argument I'm sick of. Since you're pressing the point, yes, I have been shot at. No, it's not pleasant at all. No, the fear that someone MIGHT take a shot at you is no excuse for beating civilians bloody.

  • by OrwellianLurker ( 1739950 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:05AM (#32053526)

    Sorry for any confusion.

    This is the internet. I expect to be confused.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:11AM (#32053556)

    Damn straight.

    Non-terrorists only get the 40mm cannon.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:52AM (#32053806)
    The protect and serve motto is a reminder of police officer's dedication to service.

    The police have gone to court multiple times to fight for the right to neither protect nor serve. It may be a reminder, but if so, it's a reminder of what police were like 50 years ago, not what they are now.
  • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:52AM (#32053808)

    beating someone senseless as a safety precaution.

    That you find this acceptable anywhere at any time 'as a precaution' speaks volumes about you more than anything else.

    Society has changed. People used to respect police officers, and the risk to an officer used to be much lower.

    It's still less dangerous than being a construction worker or cabbie, what effective police need to do is maintain control of the situation without resorting to physical violence. Any point where it devolves into violence where none is shown by another party is a failure on the police officers behalf.

  • by thefear ( 1011449 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:57AM (#32053830) Homepage

    If you checked "No", congratulations! You are not yet aware that you are being treated like a terrorist!

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:59AM (#32053838)
    I recently took a defensive driving course (because my insurance offered me a sizeable discount for doing so) and they pointed out that in the little book given for drivers for the written test, it explicitly states that should you be pulled over, at no time should you exit your vehicle unless instructed to do so by the officer. There really is no excuse.

    Then you are an idiot. You don't understand why it's in there. It was never for the protection of the police. It was for your own protection. Think about it (I know, hard for you). You pull over on the right side of the road. Your door is on the left. You open it, and you are standing out in traffic. Safety is the one and only one reason that rule was ever started. However, since then, they've asserted that to be "normal" behavior and any abnormal behavior at all is dangerous. So now, it's an issue, not because of the police's safety, but for your own for not playing in traffic, and for your own because it will be seen as unusual behavior. There's nothing aggressive about getting out of the car. There was never an issue about it being bad for cops when the recommendation was created.

    And he wasn't pulled over. So such comments indicate a lack of understanding about the situation. Every car search I've been involved in (seeing them or being searched in multiple border crossings both north and south of the US) the driver was out of the car. They want the driver to open the trunk and be there. But then, the last time I crossed the US border by car was more than 10 years ago, so they may have changed how they do things.
  • by kramerd ( 1227006 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:08AM (#32053892)

    He was instructed not to get out of the car (by signs), did so anyway, and when verbally instructed to get back in his car, refused. That was the crime for which he was convicted.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:42AM (#32054090)
    He never refused. He may not have complied with the preferred speed, but that is not a refusal. From the statements of the officers at the time of his arrest, there was less than 10 seconds from the time he was ordered to get in his car to the time he was physically prevented from entering his car by the officers. And he never stated he was unwilling or unable to comply, nor indicated that he was intending to not reenter his car. Nothing I've seen indicates the word "refused" is the correct one for this situation.
  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:52AM (#32054138) Homepage Journal

    The protect and serve motto is a reminder of police officer's dedication to service..."knuckle dragging cowardly bullies" is absurd at best. While I would never wish for you to need the services of a police officer, if you ever find yourself doing so, I assume you wouldn't make such a statement. If you ever plan on doing so, let me know when and where so I can watch.

    I'll try. The fault with the statements above is that they equate police officers with DHS guards. Despite having been on the wrong side of the law many times, I do believe that the vast majority of police officers are honest folks who foster good relations with their citizens and have honest intent(the only bad publicity seems to come from Los Angeles, with its officers up against crotch-grabbers [cnn.com] and coked-up madmen using babies for human shields [policeone.com]). I also agree that they're not out to cause trouble because they want to go home to their families without any bullshit.

    However - DHS guards are not police officers. They are glorified security guards gone mad with the power they attained in the wake of 9/11. The vast majority of them face no danger, and the last one to be shot to death(since the '80's) passed under mysterious circumstances with his gun stolen, an obvious cover-up. This [ivpressonline.com] ICE "officer" drove at night with tinted windows and plowed through a stop sign, killing 3 women. Calling them "federal officers" is an insult to everybody else with "officer" in their title. They're on par with prison guards, for fuck's sake. I know because I get eye-fucked and sent to secondary on a regular basis by those assholes, because I always lose the staring contest. Why don't you try driving through a few of their checkpoints being preemptively treated like a criminal and having dogs run your car beacuse you "might" be a criminal?

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:58AM (#32054164)
    Police (still) don't go around beating people as step 1

    Yes, they do. They approach a non-violent man standing in a parking lot, shout an order at him and then beat him. Just like the guy famous for "don't tase me bro" who was tased and beaten for speaking out of turn. OK, then not step 1. They ask nicely once and only once and then start hitting. They don't even need to leave time in there for compliance. So I'll call it step 1(a).

    they do it defensively as both a matter of policy and practice.

    Defensively? What did he do that was dangerous? Standing still in a parking lot is what they accused him of. If it was so dangerous, why did they talk to him first? And if it wasn't dangerous, why couldn't they have given him an additional 5 seconds to comply before beating him?

    your mis-characterization must stem from your lack of understanding.

    That's arrogant to the point of being 100% incorrect. "If only you understood, you'd have to come to the same logical conclusion as me." There's absolutely no room for "you may have the same understanding as me and still come to a different conclusion."

    I do understand. I've been pulled over multiple times for being in the wrong neighborhood. I've been harassed. I know friends harassed. I understand exactly what they do and why. "Contempt of cop" is a felony, and that's what he did. I understand that. I don't think it's right. I don't think it's defensible. There's no reason to beat an unarmed man who's standing still when they attack. He was a threat to no one.

    Someone posing a threat is not the same as someone who is non-violent.

    I agree. Evidently, you are ok with beating non-violent people. You think that if someone who has a distorted thought of threats thinks a non-violent person who isn't acting in a threatening might, at some time in the future, become a threat, then it's ok to start beating them before that happens. I understand what you are saying. And I disagree. No claims of "if you only understood" will change my thoughts on this.

    Two minutes of sitting in your car and waiting for the officer to walk over to speak with you is much better for you and the officer in the sense that the officer doesn't have to decide whether or not you are an idiot or a threat and probably you will be able to travel into or out of the US instead of ending up in a jail cell.

    You are making things up. The officer was talking to him, then walked off. He was looking for clarification of the situation from the person who was talking to him. He had no idea it would be 2 minutes until he was dealt with. There was no "pull over there and wait for a minute and I'll get right back." The officers treated him like a child. They gave him an incomplete order and expected him to guess the rest. And they acted like bad parents, spanking him when he exposed their bad orders and stupid policies. And he wasn't even trying. He just wanted to know that he was being subjected to the very-rare screening on exit and how long he'd have to wait before someone could get back with him.
  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:07AM (#32054188)

    Yeah, it's always a mistake to stand up for what you believe in...or even demand to be treated like a human being. Better by far to grovel and kiss the ass of the douchebag with the gun. You'll survive, probably. And what could be more important than that?

  • by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:14AM (#32054216)

    Sorry, my point was more that I don't like anyone who abuses the privileges of their station, such as policies and procedures that allow them to be safe, to inflict cruelties on others.

    Perspective anecdote: one of my personal "unknown heroes" is a highway cop who stood there calmly listening to this frustrated motorist he pulled over deliver this obscene tirade of vitriol. He just asked questions, wrote the ticket, and let the guy vent. No shouting, no arrest for disorderly conduct, no mace, no "he tripped in the car and hit his face on the steering wheel", nothing. Totally kept his cool. You could have balanced tigers on his cool. So when I read of situations like this, where a guard flies off the handle and beats the crap out of a tourist for daring to ask what the problem is, I know one bad cop doesn't mean all bad cops - I've seen the proof otherwise.

    When an officer of the law resorts to the use of violence (and I mean bloody violence, not some wrestling lock or whatever) on a non-violent "offender" (regardless of any verbal aggressiveness), I consider that officer has failed in his duty. But what truly disturbs me is not that it inevitably happens - we're all human - but that it can be excused and abetted when it happens so blatantly. When the testimonies of those guards present not only don't match but contradict, when the guy laying on the ground covered in mace and his own blood gets dragged through the courts and convicted of a felony, when the officer who put him there does not even get an official reprimand let alone arrested himself... it has gone way past one officer losing his temper and making a mistake.

  • by mhotchin ( 791085 ) <slashdot@nOSpAm.hotchin.net> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:31AM (#32054282)
    I didn't say 'grovel'. I said 'take it up with higher authorities'.

    Part of freedom is not just knowing the good fight, but knowing who to fight it with.

    The douchebag with the gun is the *immediate* problem. The authority that gave the douchebag a gun is the *real* problem.
  • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:51AM (#32054344) Homepage Journal

    as a side note, when people *really* don't care about things? They don't bother talking about them.

      I could almost feel sorry for you. Fortunately I have too full a life for it to even be a waste of my time.


  • by jeko ( 179919 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:48AM (#32054524)

    Think of it as votes on a jury.

    Look, Kramerd, I've been pretty hard on you tonight, and I apologize. I'm sure your Dad is a cop, and you look up to him, and wanna defend him, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    But your Dad and his friends, well, they've been kinda hard on the sheeple lately. When you taser a dozen autistic kids [google.com], baton pregnant women in the stomach [google.com], taser and club an epileptic for not obeying commands while he's having a seizure [epilepsyfoundation.org], and beat a little girl while she's trapped in a holding cell [seattlepi.com]....

    Well, let's just say the other men who carry guns in uniform lose respect for you. And the sheeple, oh my, well the sheeple do truly horrible things.

    They start voting against you on juries.

    So do me a favor. Go tell your Dad that if he and his little buddies can't get their act together, then We the People are about to introduce them to the wonderful world of private security, where they can make almost a whole eight dollars an hour. :-)

  • by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:20AM (#32054604) Homepage
    Have you ever considered there is a connection between officers using violence on the public and the loss of public respect for police officers? Respect is earned and easily lost due to bad behavior.
  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:54AM (#32054888) Homepage Journal

    They aren't equating the two. It's just subject drift.

  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:56AM (#32054902) Homepage

    You would think with all the news about police beatings of people with curiosity that people wouldn't be curious anymore. Really, the common sense that is taught in pretty much all education is don't do things to give police a reason to wonder whether or not they should beat you

    No, common sense teaches that the only sensible thing to do if you see police is to shoot them on sight, before they have the chance to attack you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @08:19AM (#32055340)

    Christ, you're an asshole.

    +1, Informative. I just love Slashdot.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @10:40AM (#32056006) Journal

    He told me not to get out of the car in the future because that makes them 'nervous'.

    And in your country, it's considered sensible to give a gun and a badge of authority to people who get nervous enough to freak out when someone looks at them?

  • Episode #4,987,998 of "Internet Tough Guy".

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